Sunday, April 3, 2011

in which i cry over spilled medicine

This morning I had a major mama melt-down. It was over the smallest thing (isn't it always?), but my reaction was so dizzyingly disproportionate that I was forced to stop and think about where all the tears and frustration were really coming from.

The trigger event was giving Z one of his two twice-daily meds. One of the meds is easy, one is hard. Giving him the harder one can sometimes require pinning his arms over his head, plugging his nose, squirting the medicine into his mouth and squeezing his lips closed until he swallows. Yes, good times. And this morning I was not quick enough with the lip-squeezing and he managed to spit out a whole dose before I could stop him.

This has happened before and it is really not a big deal. We wipe it up, we give him a break, we try again later. But for whatever reason, today it just broke me down. I hate it -- I hate restraining him and giving him something he doesn't want, which of course is natural and understandable. But the raw power of the emotions I was feeling told me there was more going on. Why did such a small thing make me feel so shattered?

It took me a few minutes, but then the pieces of the puzzle slid into place and I understood. It wasn't about the medicine. It was about adoption and trauma and fear and me and my son. Holding his arms, knowing he doesn't understand, forcing something on him that he doesn't want but unarguably needs... it is all too familiar. Z doesn't understand his adoption and the events that led up to it any more than he understands why he needs to take medicine. He does not think to himself, "Well sure, this is difficult now, but it will be best in the long run." All he knows is that something decidedly unpleasant is happening and I'm the one making it happen. When he spit out that medicine, it uncovered my deepest fear as an adoptive parent: that despite my good intentions and love for him, he will reject me, reject his adoption, spit us out like bad-tasting medicine. And now at least the torrent of tears makes sense.

This fear is real and it is normal, but it is not based on truth. The truth is that, although there may have been and may continue to be parts of Z's adoption that he experiences as traumatic, it is mostly not trauma. Right now it is mostly tickles and warm milk and peek-a-boo. Right now we are seeing signs left and right that he is not rejecting us, but falling in love with us and with his new life. He is soaking up the love and affection and devotion of his mom and dad and brothers like a happy little sponge. Yes, there is trauma and loss, and it is critical to his development that we acknowledge that and help him process it. But ultimately we are not holding down his arms and plugging his nose, and thanks be to God, he is most definitely not spitting us out.


  1. Eloquent, raw, tender truth. Thanks for sharing, dear sister.

  2. "This fear is real and it is normal, but it is not based on truth."

    If I could just say that to myself a hundred times a day, do you think I would learn?

  3. Oh no, this sounds so very tough. I'm really glad to hear that you are all growing together, despite these hard hard times.